Pacific countries are pushing for toothless environmental protections in secret negotiations for a global trade pact, Green lobbyists say.
The claims stem from the latest leak from whistleblower WikiLeaks. It has published what it says is a draft of the environmental chapter under discussion as part of the negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.
The documents, from the Salt Lake City round of talks, appear to show divisions around the environmental chapters of the treaties, which are voluntary. These deal with logging, overfishing, black market trade in endangered species, and removing tariffs on sustainable products.
Environmental provisions appear too weak to counter investor state dispute resolution settlement clauses, which would allow multinational firms to sue governments that put in place strong regulations.
WikiLeaks said the documents were noteworthy for an absence of "mandated clause or meaningful enforcement".
"The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are co-operative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions," it added.
Environmentalists believe it shows the US government will stop pushing for strong controls.
The Green Party, which is opposed to the TPP, said the leak also proved the New Zealand government was not committed to the environment.
MP Gareth Hughes said: "Protections afforded to foreign investors under the TPP will seriously undermine our environment. Similar agreements have resulted in Governments being forced to pay billions because they put in place rules to protect the environment from harm caused by foreign corporations."
The negotiations are taking place in secret.
Professor Jane Kelsey, of the University of Auckland, a staunch critic of free-trade agreements, is pushing for the entire draft text to be released.
The leaked text was "weak and unenforceable", she said.
"Most of the provisions are aspirational and it has no teeth to enforce what limited obligations there are."
- Fairfax Media
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